Leaders: Made or Born?

The Infamous Debate

Are leaders made or born? I am absolutely obsessed with leadership, and that’s the one question I love talking about the most. I wrote about it in my book, I talk about it in my Extraordinary Leadership presentation, and I’ve studied it from the leading experts in the field. What I’ve found, is most people would say leaders are both made and born; there are examples of each throughout history. But deep down I’ve always leaned towards the side of leaders being born. That mostly comes from my experience growing up around people who are without a doubt, natural born leaders; they didn’t read any books, they didn’t go to seminars or take a class. People flocked to them at a very young age, and they thrived being in that leadership role.

I was still on the fence about whether leaders are made or born until I read this article by Gary Vaynerchuk. Instead of asking if leaders are made or born, he asks “Are entrepreneurs born or made?” I encourage you to read the whole article. To sum it up, he says entrepreneurs are born, and one of his points that stood out to me the most was about the NBA. Gary says, “We all know how hard NBA players work on their craft to get to that professional level. They are taking shots and practicing their ball handling every day for hours on end, for years and years. But we’re also equally aware of the massive amount of athleticism and talent that they were born with to harness and execute against.” He goes on to say, “Why don’t we apply the same perspective, how we view the talents and skill sets of our best athletes, to how we teach entrepreneurship and becoming an entrepreneur?”

I agree with Gary’s take on whether entrepreneurs are born or made. My question is, does the same idea apply to leadership? I have a deep belief that we’re all born with a gift; something that separates each of us from everyone else. This gift, gives us the opportunity to be extraordinary at one thing in life. Of course anyone can become good at something through hard work and dedication, but being good and being extraordinary are two very different things. To ultimately be a successful leader, I believe there’s a level of innate talent and characteristics that certain people are born with. Here are some of the characteristics and skills that stand out most to me:

  1. Charisma – Leaders have an undeniable personal magnetism that naturally attracts people to them. It’s debatable whether or not charisma can be learned, but to leaders, it comes easy.
  2. People Skills – Leadership all comes down to people, and leaders are exceptional in building relationships and gaining the trust of other people.
  3. Ability to Speak – Public speaking always has been, and always will be, the most powerful force in human history. Leaders love the stage, and speeches are where they have their biggest impact.
  4. Action Oriented – Lazy is not a part of their vocabulary. They lead by example by being the hardest worker in the room.
  5. Self-control – Leaders are masters over themselves. They have complete control of their thoughts, emotions, and how they react to any given situation.

Of course everyone is born with some leadership ability. But the word I want to focus on here is extraordinary; leaders like Napoleon Bonaparte, Julius Caesar, and George Washington. As I said before, I’m leaning towards the side of leaders being born. I’ve always went back and forth, and my opinion may change before you get a chance to talk to me about it, but I always welcome more conversations on the topic. I’ve just become more and more fascinated about what contributes more to who we each ultimately become; our hard work and relentless pursuit to master a craft, or natural born talents and skills? Are leaders made or born? The world may never know.


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